Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pizza diet? That's a new one!

I am the type who cannot be on a diet. I do fast for religious reasons and on those fasting days, I just don't eat anything. I cannot call that dieting. The truth is I like to eat 3 meals a day with a snack or two in between. I cannot over eat though.

I think diets are the ones that go by the name of Atkins diet, Beverly Hills diet, Bodybuilding diet, High Protein diet, Mediterranean diet, South Beach diet, and the Zone diet. Such diets follow a regimen in order to lose excess fat, or propose staying away from carbs or just plain balancing the different food groups.

The latest that I recently came across is the pizza diet. The proponent of this diet says eat a slice of pizza every 3 hours and work out 1 hour. I am not sure if the idea is to eat a slice every 3 hours throughout the day and work out one hour during the 24 hour period, or alternate between eating and working out. I will stay tuned for more on this and will write again if I find out more.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sometimes less is more, but couldn't resist one more

The last thing I needed was another recipe to cook potatoes. I've literally tried them all - Steaming, grilling, braising, roasting, broiling and the various subgenres of frying — pan-fried, stir-fried and deep-fried.

But then I came across one more irresistible method and it tasted too good. Half boiled, 1/4 baked and 1/4 roasted potatoes in that order. After steaming the potatoes in hot boiling water for about 10 minutes, place it in the oven with a brush of herb seasoning and olive oil, for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Turn the potatoes a few times to evenly cook them. Now run a bit of garlic butter (just a touch), drizzle a few drops of olive oil and roast until they are golden brown.

Note: Use potatoes with the skin, not Idaho or Russet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Creamed Soups

I love those creamy soups as in corn, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, even potato. If you are a pure vegetarian like I am one thing you'd need to be careful about is what kind of stock they use in these soups.

I saw this on TV some years ago. The chef happily poured in the chicken stock when he was making broccoli soup and called it vegetarian. Since then I always ask the waiter if any type of meat stock is used in preparing these soups. And rarely have I found them using vegetable stock.

One thing to note is that vegetarians are not all non-meat eaters, and I don't know why they call themselves vegetarians. So it is confusing when restaurants especially Thai, Chinese and Malaysian say they have a vegetarian menu and then you see a long list of seafoods. The interpretation of a vegetarian I guess is different around the world.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Oven-roasted zucchini and eggplant

Enjoy this delectable appetizer and recipe of the week.

Try it, you'll like it

I found this snack to be tasty and filling. In one of my previous blogs I had mentioned my sudden craze over hummus. I've had it a few different ways. My favorite 2 are hummus with triscuit, and toasted pita with a thin layer of hummus. Roasted tomato hummus is the best. If you like garlic, then that is a close second. Or, try plain hummus topped with some fresh vegetables.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Apricot, a fruit of the senses

For many years my exposure to apricots was restricted to story books and colorful pictures. The first time I actually tasted apricots was when a Persian friend brought an incredibly tasty apricot dessert when I was in high school. Followed by another Greek dessert with apricots and figs that I bought at a store that was sensual, exotic and delicious. I was hooked. I believe Alexander the Great, introduced apricots to Greece. I guess that must have influenced Turkey as well. When I was in Turkey a couple years ago, the morning breakfast at this quaint place always had yogurt, figs and apricots among other dry fruits and nuts.

Apricot is tasty as is. But added to cereals, juices or ice cream makes it taste extraordinary. On the health end, I know apricots are high in fiber and filled with anitoxidants. I have also found it to be a satisfying snack between meals. To top it off, apricots are aphrodisiacs. Can it get any better?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hot and spicy Vegetable Kurma

Spicy, hot food is truly great on sweltering days and lately we've experienced some intense heat. I had a sudden craving for vegetable kurma. Also, nothing else seemed appealing when I opened the refrigerator this evening wondering what would truly make dinner exciting.

Here's the recipe for some incredible vegetable kurma.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yogurt - morning, afternoon, night and any time in between

I can live on yogurt alone for days. Really, no other food is necessary. Not on store bought yogurt though which has a sticky consistency. Yogurt is so easy to make. All one needs is the very first culture which you can find at the store. Just buy regular plain yogurt to start the culture. The live culture/bacteria in it is necessary to create the next batch. You can then continue on endlessly to make new yogurt. See this recipe online.

The health benefits of yogurt are simply incredible. It is easy to digest and lactose-intolerant people will have no problems. The nutritional value goes on forever - protein, calcium, vitamins such as B12, B6, B2 and fat soluble vitamins A and E. Besides good yogurt also helps promote digestion and heals inflammation of the intestines. These are the things I have read about and am also speaking obviously from experience. I have at least a cup of yogurt a cay. I'm sure there are many more health benefits I have missed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The best restaurant breakfast I've ever had

Last year I was at The Four Seasons in Las Vegas. This was work-related and not a vacation. So, the morning was a rush. I was late for a meeting and terribly hungry since the previous night's dinner was a sorry salad at some place outside of Four Seasons.

I was not too upbeat about the breakfast at The Four Seasons. But it is a 5-Star hotel, so figured they'd be able to whip up something for a vegetarian palette. I asked them to be creative and had about 30 minutes in all to get the food, eat and be at the meeting on one of the top floor meeting rooms.

The restaurant did surprise me. I had an egg white omelette with some kind of pesto, herbal seasoning, with light cheddar & some veggies, a couple of wheat toasts on the side and a glass of orange juice. As simple as you can get with any breakfast. But this spread was heavenly. The omelette was incredibly tasty. This was an egg white omelette, so no guilt feelings either. I recommended this to many others and the following morning a bunch of people headed to the same place for the same thing. They were not disappointed.

On another note, The Four Seasons in Las Vegas is the ultimate in luxury, way better than any other Four Seasons Hotel I've been to. An unforgettable 3-day experience!

Monday, June 21, 2010

When do I have my proteins?

Most vegetarians like myself find it a struggle to get enough proteins everyday. I spread out my protein intake throughout the day. And, I used to make it a point to have some protein before exercise. Well, that is not the right way to do it. Proteins are most needed after exercise.

For me, the easiest way to get enough protein is to just have a protein shake. I have found the best tasting shakes are the ones made with a cup of berries (mix of blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and blackberry), a banana, 1 cup of milk and 2 scoops of vanilla flavored protein powder. The only issue I have is, a tall glass of protein shake fills me up enough to skip dinner. I sometimes get up hungry in the middle of the night.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All dads out there - Have a great Father's Day

Fathers are as important in a daughter's life as they are in a son's. I'm incredibly thankful for my dad who I think is the best in the world. He is a good, loving, kind and patient man. In other words, he is the personification of a good human being. What can be better than that?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sweet corn for all summer meals

I naturally gravitate towards corn in summer. At all other times for whatever reason everyone in the family shuns them. Of course, they are not readily available around the year either.

During summer we seek them out. Some of the ways I cook corn are:

1. Lightly steaming and adding a touch of unsalted butter and lime
2. Roasting them till they turn almost black, then adding a touch of cayenne pepper and lime over
3. Cooking them well and making corn soup
4. Adding some lightly cooked kernels to other grain salads, like quinoa and some sweet colored peppers
5. Garnishing with some Indian spices and adding a touch of fresh cilantro
6. Corn relish with some seeded green chillies, tomatoes and red pepper.

I have quite a few others but these are the most popular of my corn dishes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hummus, one of my recent favorites

Lately, I have not been able to get enough of it. And, i.e. over the last couple weeks. I had organized a speech club social event and requested members to contribute a refreshment. We ended up with quite a bit of food. I enjoyed one in particular - home made hummus. I had never tasted hummus that good before.

The following week I was at another party and a couple there told me that hummus is a magic food that helps them keep their blood pressure low and their diabetes in check. Of course, the next step for me was to go crazy and start reading about hummus wherever I could find any information.

Here's what I have found. The Tahini which is the main ingredient in hummus besides chick peas is where the secret lies. Here are some nutrition facts on Tahini.

Tahini is basically sesame butter and sesame is loaded with magnesium, manganese and copper, but they are also a good source of calcium,iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage. (the nutrition information is from a health site)

I am heading to the store this evening because I ran out of hummus. The next step of course is to find a good recipe and when I do, will post it on

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You may find this list quite intriguing

Here is a food topic that is a slight departure from my usual. Every culture has its own little secrets when it comes to food. Secret ingredients, secret recipes, and secret do's and don'ts with food. I came across a short list of aphrodisiacs that'll supposedly give you a whole lot of power. If you need more details, google or comment on this blog.

The list - Oysters, Watermelon, Cocoa or Chocolate, Asparagus, Avocados, Maca,Pumpkin Seeds,Celery, onion, pomegranate, onion, pomegranate. Add to these some herbs and spices such as ginseng, ginger, and clove.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Swiss Chard, my recent discovery

I have passed by this mountain of Swiss Chard in the Farmer's market for years. And every week the thought that people can create something edible out of this green leafy vegetable baffled me. I never dared to cook anything with it myself.

Well, that changed a year or so ago. Since then, I have been reading quite a bit about these buttery tasting, nutritious greens. Finally, today I bit the bullet and decided to cook them.

What a surprise! They do taste great. I'd suggest you discard the white stalks and stick with the greens alone. I tried the stalk and they taste like pesticide. But, the greens are like regular spinach. Look for a simple recipe on next week's recipe of the week.This week's is Vegetarian chilli.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In defence of cilantro. Don't flee, eat with glee

Cilantro another magical, and I would say exotic plant has aroma, flavor and health all combined in one. It is used extensively in Indian and in other cuisines such as Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Mediterranean, South Asian, Mexican, and Latin American cuisine.

Fresh leaves are the best and provide the maximum health benefits as well. Rich in antioxidants, it also helps lower triglycerides, and high-density protein.

One thing's for sure though. If you have not grown up in a family that has opened its minds to cuisines around the world, it is a bit difficult to embrace cilantro in all its glory when you are first introduced to it. To the unfamiliar palette, it is a novelty and will take some getting used to.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Catering from Devi, Exton

Wish Indian restaurants were not chintzy on food especially when ordered for a crowd of people. We had an excellent spread of food last evening from Devi, the Indian vegetarian restaurant in Exton, PA. While the food was good the quantity was hardly enough for the crowd. We placed the order weeks before, and were reassured that it could feed an additional 10 people. We had just 3 additional. Although everyone had a good first serving, the last guest that ate late did not have a full plate. I would have felt better if I had had enough to serve the entire crowd for a sumptuous second.

As the host of the party not only did I not feel good but also felt cheated. I am not sure I will recommend Devi to anybody else.

Vegetarian Chilli

Check out this week's recipe of the week.vegetarian chilli.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What else does summer bring?

Parties. It should be this way not just during summer but all through the year. Many week ends of parties. The only problem is I love good food and am bound to add a few pounds. What with a party or two every weekend!

What do I do to keep the weight off? Maybe just rush to the gym right now before an endless weekend of eating begins.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What is your favorite summer food?

I love this time of the year when everything around is picture perfect beautiful. And, I also love it because of the sinful foods that are available everywhere you turn around. I am a health nut on the one hand, but on the other I don't mind a binge here and there on these foods - ice cream, milk shake, french fries and chocolate.

If you are reading this, can you write as to what your sinful foods are? I will be sure to comment back.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Maybe my exposure to food is limited although I have traveled quite a bit to other exotic countries. Lately, I have been reading about fennel used in salads. I did not know that fennel bulbs can be used in cooked or raw foods. Outside of Indian food, I know Persians use it in their cooking to some extent as well.

I use them quite cautiously in certain vegetarian preparations since they have a strong flavor and aroma. A touch adds a lot. The health benefits are innumerable.

Health Benefits:

Fennel seeds aid digestion. After a heavy meal, a teaspoon of fennel seeds is a perfect remedy to avoid indigestion and flatulence. It is a great breath freshner as well. I have also heard that it helps with women's monthly cycles.

There is a new recipe, fennel salad that I came across. Let me try that and will then talk about it. I need to find out where those fennel bulbs may be available. If my readers know about it, do write back.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Easy, tasty, healthy recipe for a cloudy, rainy day like today

Chole, also called Chana Masala is the answer. Ingredients:

1 can of Garbanzo beans
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. Canola oil (you may use olive oil)
1 medium-sized onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed or diced
1 clove
1 small piece of cinnamon stick
Red chilie powder to suit your taste
1 tsp. turmeric^
2 tsp. coriander powder^
2 tsp. cumin powder^
2 tsp. garam masala^
1 tsp. of concentrated tamarind paste^
Salt to taste
2 Tbsps. fresh coriander leaves

Take a wok^ or a skillet. Add the oil and let it warm. Now add the cinnamon stick and clove. They will turn slightly brown. Now add garlic, saute for a couple minutes. Add the onions. Let it become translucent (saute for 5 minutes).

Now add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and chilli powders. Let them roast for a couple minutes. Add the diced tomatoes. Let the mixture cook together for another 5 minutes. Now add the beans after draining the water. Add salt. Add about 1/2 a cup of regular water. Mix everything well in the wok/skillet. Cover it with a lid.

Let everything cook for about 15 minutes. Make sure that the garbanzo and the spices are mixed well as they cook. Now take a potato masher and mash the garbanao just a bit so some of them are broken down. Add the tamarind paste and let it cook again for 5 more minutes. Now add the garam masala. Mix well. Turn off heat. Sprinkle the coriander leaves after it is transfered to a serving dish.

Serve hot. Goes great with Puris or Bhatura.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vegetarian meat or Herbicarnivores?

Why? Why eat fake meat when there is the real thing available, and to vegetarians why eat fake chicken, fish or red meat when there are healthy, fresh vegetables all around?

I have tried fake meat a few times. There's this chinese restaurant in downtown Philly that serves all vegetarian dishes made with these meats. Meaning they susbstitute wheat gluten or soy and somehow imitate the taste of meat. Honestly, it tastes terrible. I can't imagine all the additives in there for one thing. Are they trying to satisfy the insatiable meat lovers who want meat but at the same time say they are vegetarians? My opinion is stay vegetarian if you are one. It actually is pretty easy. There is an incredible variety in vegetarian food that you'll never get tired of.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A claim a day, or maybe 2 or more. Who's checking anyway?

I am reading about more studies and surveys done on the good effects of alcohol, coffee, tea, or daily dose of meat, and on the flip side the bad effects of too much veggies.

Here's something new for the day.
'Coffee, Tea Health Benefits: Curb diabetes risk with daily drink' posted in The Huffington Post. A daily dose of coffee, decaf or tea can reduce the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes by 25 to 35 percent, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

I am not sure I believe that or want to believe. Why are studies so contradicting in their results from even the recent past? Are we supposed to believe these because it is from a medical journal?

Now what? Everybody who has Type 2 diabetes and who don't drink coffee and /tea are going to start drinking them? Or, are people who do not have the problem going to start drinking them as a preventive measure?

Way too confusing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Recipe for this week - Samosa

Check out this week's recipe of the week, Samosa at my kitchen Web site.

Sprouted Moong Beans

Lentils, (several varieties are available in Indian grocery stores) are packed with protein and other nutrients. Lentils, called dhal in Hindi can be cooked in a few different ways and each type has a distinct taste. Read dhal recipes on my kitchen Web site. You may use any of the dhal recipes to cook sprouted lentils.

Sprouted lentils, however are more nutritious than regular lentils. The protein content is higher because sprouting magnifies the nutritional value of the seed. It boosts the B-vitamin content, supposedly triples the amount of vitamin A and vitamin C.

Moong beans are the ones typically used in Indian cooking. To sprout moong - Wash them in cold water, drain and cover them with a wet white cloth and leave the container in a dark spot of the house, I usually keep them overnight inside the oven. Note: Oven should not be turned on. Wash and rinse lentils the next morning and repeat the process. In about 3 days the lentils will sprout. Sprouted lentils can be eaten raw or cooked. Add them to salads, soups, casseroles or steam or stir fry them with other vegetables.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


"At your next summer barbecue, try out Vidya’s recipe for this vegetable or meat kabob marinade that uses a variety of healthful spices". Read more...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Spice up your food for health benefits

Here is an article written by Amanda Oliva referencing my recommendations on the benefits of spices.

Follow me on Twitter as well. Profile is vswamy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Couscous Salad

I was once teased by a family member for my love of salads and the comment was, 'salads and leaves are for goats only'. Well, I laughed it off and didn't change anything. As I started to bring on taste and variety into my salads, the notion that it is only for herbivores started to change.

I tried this recipe with Couscous and at times I substitute Quinoa. With a twist and a kick any salad can be satisfying and sumptuous.


Couscous – 1 cup
Salt – 1/4 tsp or to taste
Boiling Water – 1 1/2 cups
Olive Oil – 1 Tbsp (optional)
Green Onions – 2-3 stalks (chopped)
Red Peppers – 1/2 chopped, any color
Cucumber – 1/2 medium, peeled and chopped
Cilantro – 10 sprigs, chopped
Tomatoes – 2 medium or handful of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
Green Chilies – to taste, finely chopped
Garbanzo Beans – 15 oz can, washed and drained
Dried Cranberries – handful
Chopped Walnuts – handful
Salt – to taste
Black Pepper – to taste
Lemon/Lime Juice – to taste


Cook Couscous and set it aside to cool. Next add the above ingredients. Give it a good mix and you are done.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Total Wines, the best of the best

The best wine shop around where I live is 'Total Wines', the largest I have seen. It is bigger than a Walmart. Visiting this to me is like going to Disney World. For one thing, I don't know much about wines. Secondly, there are aisles and aisles of wine from all around the world stacked up to the ceiling that I truly do not know where to begin.

I usually go up to the salesperson for recommendations. The last time I was there, he was so friendly and kept offering me different wines to taste. After a few shots and feeling a little tipsy, I picked up some cases with a mix of each kind he recommended and ended up spending more than necessary. Of course it was holiday time and I knew it will be used up in no time. And, it was.

Here are some things I learned that could help you.

- Don't step into shops that are too warm.
- Get to know the salesperson, they are generally knowledgeable.
- If you don't know much about wines, admit it. You will come out learning a whole lot.
- Purchase wines that will go with different types of food especially if your family is a foodie family like mine. This way there will be a wine to match any type of food especially during holiday time.
- Don't look for the names you have seen on a wine list in restaurants. Most expensive is not necessarily the best.
- Local wines can be as good or better than imported ones.
- Last of all there are organic wines available if you are into natural health foods.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Can a broken heart mend?

I read this article today by TARA PARKER-POPE in which it says it is indeed true that people could die of a broken heart and loss in love.

Emotional distress can sometimes lead to heart attack like symptoms where no heart blockages are there but then a person experiences pain like a heart attack pain. The good news is that such patients can be treated and can bounce back to normalcy where the emotional distress is much reduced through treatment.